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Reviewers Needed!

Hey y’all, I need some reviewers! 

Here’s the deal:

  • I send you an epub or paperback copy (your choice)
  • You post an honest review without spoilers on Good Reads or Amazon.ca (Canadian author, eh?) within thirty days of receipt
  • You send me a link to your review via email [ chloe(dot)a(dot)cocking@gmail.com ]
  • I send you a nice “thank you” note

Be advised that Blood Rain contains violence, gore, and other stuff not suitable for sensitive adults. If you enjoy horror, this is the book for you. If you don’t enjoy horror, give it a wide berth.

The short stories in Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium range from humorous to drama/action/adventure and back. There is a some cursing and a bit of (what I think of as) mild violence. It’s a much lighter read than Blood Rain, so it’s suitable for general adult readership.    Continue reading “Reviewers Needed!”

Fur like Gothic Cotton Candy

Our cat Smokey, otherwise known as “Empress Smokey Jade Mountain, First of Her Name” (doesn’t everybody give their cat a grand long nonsensical name?) died abruptly and unexpectedly yesterday, June 16, 2018. She was aged only ten years (give or take–she was a rescue, so we don’t know for sure).

Though my partner Rob was clearly her favourite human, she had room in her heart for me too.

My partner and Smokey in happier days
My partner and Smokey in happier days. His shoulder was her usual perch.

She often served as a muse for me:

  • there is a cat based on Smokey in my novel Blood Rain
  • in Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium she appears as herself under the pseudonym ‘Small Cat’ in the story called “Feed Me”
  • she was the inspiration for a poem I wrote called “Ergot Incantation for a Cat” (that poem is included in at the end of this post)

My very small human and animal family is still in shock at her abrupt passing.

20170922_200510_HDR
Smokey was deeply suspicious of the clothes dryer and frequently inspected it to make sure it wasn’t in any danger of becoming . . . I dunno a hell-mouth? portal to another dimension? I was never sure why she was inspecting it, but she took her job very seriously

I will never forget her sweetness, her ferocity, her weird obsession with the clothes dryer, and the feel of her featherlight fur on my skin. It was like Gothic cotton candy.

I know that not everyone is “an animal person.” I am also aware that our world has much bigger problems than one dead companion animal. Y’all, those are bigger problems for other days.

Today I ask that you share some of your kindness and compassion with me as I grieve for the most dainty and ferocious fur-child I’ve ever had. 

Then please offer a gesture of love tonight to your own dear ones, regardless of species.

If you’d like a free-of-charge epub of the recently-released Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium sent to your very own email inbox, just email me and I’ll forward it to you as soon as I can. (Don’t like to be crying and on the Internet at the same time, so it might take me a couple of days to repond. Crying while Interneting it’s almost as dangerous as drinking while Interneting.)

email: chloe (DOT)a(DOT)cocking@gmail.com for your free book.

Thank you!


Ergot[1] Incantation for a Cat

steely blue with

claws and teeth, claws and teeth, claws and teeth

steely blue with

claw and teeth

asleep, a-twitch beside me

 

mealy brew with

paws and heath[2], paws and heath, paws and heath

mealy brew with

paws and heath

a-peep, an itch inside me

 

freely flew with

slaws[3] and sheath[4], slaws and sheath, slaws and sheath

freely flew with

slaws and sheath

a-creep, a witch bestride me


Sometimes when writing poems I use unfamiliar or less common words. When I do that I like to include a few footnotes to help all y’all out, just in case you’re like “Ergot, wtf is ergot?!” If you are a smarty pants and know all this stuff, well, all I can say is “good job, guess you can skip the footnotes.”

[1] Ergot is a small black mold that can infest stored rye grain. It has hallucinogenic properties. Some believe the women, men, and children who “confessed” to cavorting with the devil, riding broomsticks through the sky at night and so on during the European Witchhunts (aka The Burning Times) were describing ergot hallucinations to the inquisitors.

[2] Heath is a plant common in many parts of Europe. You could cook it up in a cauldron for some ‘boil boil/ toil and trouble’ action if you want, but I’d advise you add in a few (ethically sourced) animal paws for good measure.

[3] “Slaw” is regional contemporary North American slang used to denote “a slut” or anything that is “broken down, beaten up, or worn out”. I don’t have the energy at the moment for a feminist polemic about the connections between so-called “sluts” and witches, so : : Hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles have been written about this topic by humans much smarter and more accomplished than me, so happy Googling.

[4] “Sheath” has, in some historical contexts, been used to refer (rudely) to women’s genitals, much as “sword” has been used for male genitals.

 

What I’ve Been Doing & the Difference between Aspiring Writers and Writers

What I’ve been doing:

I spent April getting ready for the Creative Ink Festival, working on some pay-the-bills projects,  and doing final edits on manuscripts.

More of the same in May until the festival itself on May 18, 19, and 20. The festival attracted people from everywhere. Some of them came on planes. I can never get on a plane without somehow catching a cold. It’s been this way for years.

I’m not French kissing everyone on the plane, nor am I chewing their used tissues, nor do I create opportunities to lick door handles, so I blame the air-recycling systems used on planes for bathing me in a pestilential miasma.

Apparently I am now such a delicate petal that I cannot be in rooms with people who have recently been on planes without catching cold. (And again, before you ask: I didn’t French kiss anyone–not even the bartender who kept refilling my wine glass for free– nor did I chew tissues or lick doorknobs.)

Since then I’ve been trying to recover from what I suppose is just a garden-variety cold, complicated by my asthma and allergies. It’s been *seventeen* days. Argh.  I keep coughing up things that would not be out-of-place in the movie Alien.

The Difference between “Aspiring Writers” and “Writers” . . .

aspiring vs actual

It’s funny, but the solution, while simple, is not easy.

Ooh ooh ooh!

I just saw the cover images for my forthcoming book of short stories, Fables, Fictions and Fantasies: A Compendium and it looks gorgeous!

The front cover photo:

forest with mist
photo credit: Tim @ Photovisions Tree Farm via photopin (license)

The back cover photo:

siska-vrijburg-42845-unsplash (1)
Photo Credit: Siska Vrijburg @ Unsplash

Both a shout-out and my sincerest thanks to the two photographers for sharing their gorgeous work with the Interwebz under a CC licence. Indie publishing thanks you generous artists, too!

But Chloe–you are saying to yourself–what is this collection of short stories about? I thought you’d never ask! Here’s the back-of-book blurb:

Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium is a collection of thirteen short stories that feature several revenge schemes; three adventures in customer service; two accidental deaths; a vegan stripper defending herself from zombie attack; and a little girl finding the cupcake of her dreams.  
 
Quill & Quire said: “What? We’ve never heard of her, sorry.”
The Georgia Strait said: “Stop sending us email, weirdo.”
 
Everybody else seemed to laugh while reading it, though.  Except for the first story. And the one about pirates. And . . . ok, fine: everybody laughed at the funny ones, just not the ones that are kinda sad. 
I am so excited.  This was a much easier journey than Blood Rain

 

“I Should Be Writing” Retreat 2018

I went to the “I Should Be Writing” Retreat last week: three days and two nights at gorgeous Loon Lake in Maple Ridge, BC.  It’s secluded and quiet as it’s located in the middle of a research forest owned by one of the local unis.

A grab-bag of my reactions and thoughts:

  • Loon Lake is near-ish the top of what the rest of the world calls a “mountain” and what people in BC call “a hill” (It’s only “a mountain” if you’ve never seen the Coastal or Rocky Mountains).
  • Regardless of what you call it, it’s above the snow line, so there were still some patches of snow on the ground. There were a few moments of decidedly chunky rain as well.
  • I might have a death wish, because when I saw the swimming dock from the balcony, I was tempted to jump in. My partner has anticipated that I might feel that way, so gave strict orders: “NO SWIMMING”. We joke (?) sometimes that I should have “LOW IMPULSE CONTROL” tattooed on my forehead (as does a character in Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash)
Swimming dock of the lake, shot from the balcony of my room.
The Swimming Dock at Loon Lake
  • Before I could work up a nice foamy head of oppositional defiance, I remembered that I actually loathe swimming in lakes.
  • I am not really “a nature person.” Probably because everything in nature is trying to kill me. (I wrote a poem about that a few months ago).
Tuesday- dining hall inside
Dining Hall at Loon Lake 
  • The chalets where we slept and the communal dining hall were comfortable, with all mod cons. Food was good, too.
  • Somehow I neglected to bring towels, but the lodge staff were very kind and hooked me up with a towel and washcloth. I’m sure my chalet-mates were very grateful I wasn’t a disgusting stinky beast the whole time.
  • I slept in a sleeping bag for the first time in fifteen years! I was worried about doing it because I’ve been known to have panic attacks when zipped into sleeping bags, esp. the “mummy” style. My friend Garnet gave me a hot tip re: zipper head co-ordination that allowed my feet the freedom I need to keep all my mental marbles where they belong. (Fun fact: I’ve had panic attacks in MRI machines, teensy-tiny bathroom stalls, and because my broken elbow was in a plaster cast and I thought about it just a little bit too much. Apparently it’s not just nature that is trying to kill me, it’s enclosed spaces as well)
  • I didn’t get any “writing” done, but I’m not in “writing” mode (which is to say “drafting chapters”). I’m in “story generation” mode, with the colour-coded index cards, notebook, and fifty-seven open browser tabs reading up on the Plague of Justinian in 541 CE and the cultural beliefs of the Coast Salish peoples. Believe it or not, in the sequel to Blood Rain (working title: Blood Down the Bones) both of those things are germane.  Your mileage may vary, but I need a ten-scene outline on index cards and some character mood boards before I can get any drafting done.
  • I spoke with someone on Sunday about certain ideas I have for the next book, and she said, “That’s gross and creepy. Perfect!” I was so pleased!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Pencil Sessions April 14 2018

One of my writing groups is co-hosting a blue pencil event with Lit Fest New West and Federation of BC Writers. Registration was supposed to open March  1 2018 via email, but there were technical difficulties.

That said, the tech difficulties have been resolved, so (honest) (for realzz) if you want a blue pencil time slot, please email newwestwriters2000 (AT) gmail.com .

Fast Facts About Blue Pencil Sessions

  • A blue pencil session is an opportunity for you to have your work reviewed by a professional writer.
  • Bring up to 600 words of your typed work for this face-to-face critique session
  • Sessions are scheduled in 15 minute increments between 1-4 PM, Saturday April 14 2018 at the Network Hub in New Westminster Quay, 810 Quayside Drive.
  • Blue pencil services are provided by:

snip

It’s done, now on to the next thing!

 

athena-lam-100454I’ve blogged before about how it took me twelve years to complete Blood Rain.

I’m pleased to say that the manuscript for my new book (a collection of short stories) was sent to the publisher a couple of days ago.

Which means that I can run around and tell everyone “the first book took me twelve years to finish, but the second book took just six months” and it will actually be true.

 

Outliners and Pantsers and Bears, Oh My!

I’ve blogged before about my writing process and how it fits into the Classical vs. Romantic traditions (TL;DR: it doesn’t).

So what do I do? A little bit of everything, including:

  • Daydream and noodle around with a notebook and pen in a public place, telling myself stories about the people I observe. (I wear ear buds that are not plugged in to anything to prevent creepers from creeping on me; it deters a few)
  • Read good books for inspiration
  • Read terrible books for even more inspiration (if you choose only one thing on this list to try on for size, choose this. I particularly recommend 9 Lovers for Emily Spankhammer  by Kaleesha Williams.  This novel is sometimes called the This is Spinal Tap of bad writing. The comparison is apt. The only thing that could improve a reading sesh of 9 Lovers for Emily Spankhammer is a large glass of Marques de Rojas and ravioli eaten straight out of the can with a plastic spork  while listening to Sia or Lana Del Ray at a volume designed to disturb the neighbours. (No offense to the neighbours, they are probably very nice. On the other hand, fuck ’em. We must all suffer for art.)
  • Write down dreams I’ve had. That’s how writing Blood Rain started. Chapter two was based on a dream I had that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
  • Summarize the ten essential scenes on index cards so that whatever I am writing has beginning, middle, and end. (How does anyone write a book without using index cards?! Impossible!)
  • Get the mojo running and then fly by the seat of my pants, just to see what happens.
  • Attend writing groups and take critical feedback on the chin.
  • Develop character portfolios— I know what they wear, what foods they like, their preferred footwear, what they would find if they underwent past-life regression hypnosis, what TV shows they watch, the genealogy of their horses, and much much more.
  • Be stubborn- I revise the first draft as many times as I have to. No piece of writing is every truly finished, IMO. There is always more to do.
  • Usually I write things in chapter-order, but I give myself permission to break that ‘rule’ as much as I want. I estimate that about eighty-five per cent of Blood Rain was drafted chronologically.

If you write, how do you write? Are you a disciplined Classical outliner or a free-spirited, Romantic ‘pantser’? Or are you a mixture of the two, like me?

On telling people I’m a writer

 

When I tell people that I’m a writer, they typically respond with at least one of the following questions:

Would I know anything you’ve written? 

Where do you get your ideas from?

I never know how to answer these questions.

(That doesn’t stop me from trying– I’m a compulsive talker).

Try as I might, people do not seem gratified by my responses.

I used to think that had something to do with me. Surely I must be giving shite answers, that must be why a look of disappointment creeps over their faces, right?

Wrong.

(I think)

(Can you tell that I’m the sort of person who constantly questions herself?)

(Can you tell that I’m the kind of person who loves parenthetical remarks?)

More and more, I think they are disappointed because they haven’t asked their real questions.

6872281806_31b7b1c6b2

Here’s what I imagine is going on:

Would I know anything you’ve written?

actually means

Are you rich and famous?  

and

Where do you get your ideas from?

actually means

You have had thoughts that would never have occurred to me. How can this be?

There are answers, certainly. I’m neither rich nor famous.  I get my ideas from the same place everyone gets their ideas. My ideas are not the same as yours because we are different people, with different minds and experiences.

I’m not sure there are any answers to these questions that people would find satisfying. How would you answer them?

 

 

The Mysterious Ouija Board, Part Three

Last time, I wrote about how urban legends about the Ouija board surged in the 1970s and early 1980s due to the influence of the film The Exorcist on popular culture.

So what’s up with Ouija right now?

In 2014, filmmaker Stiles White directed and co-wrote a low-budget horror movie called Ouija. The film cost a mere five million dollars to make, but earned over nineteen million in its first weekend alone in North American markets. While panned by critics, the film’s financial success peaked the interest of various deep-pocket movie studios.

spirit board by hasbro
Hasbro is the current owner of the Ouija board. It’s marketed as a mystical experience for all ages.

It wasn’t just Hollywood who was interested in investing in more Ouija films, either. Toy manufacturer Hasbro–the same company that produces and sells the licensed Ouija boards– reportedly put up a significant amount of funding for the prequel to Ouija, a film called Ouija: Origin of Evil, released in 2016.

Ouija_two_xxlg.jpeg
This 2016 prequel is entertaining. If you watch just one contemporary Oiuja movie, I recommend this one.

Since the success of Ouija (2014), twenty films with Ouija board themes have been released or announced.

These films have some relationship* to the increasing the number and variations of urban legends around the board, such as the three used in Ouija (2014) and  Ouija: Origin of Evil:

  • Never Play Alone
  • Never Play In A Graveyard
  • Always Say Goodbye

modern ouija

There are many more legends in circulation:

  • The true spirit board is not Ouija boards, but “Witch Boards”, so named such because witches once used them to summon demons. Witch boards have been used for centuries **
  • Placing a silver coin on the board prior to play will block any evil spirits from contacting you. One in each corner is the best way.
  • Don’t take everything a spirit says at face value. Spirits like to mess with humans because they are bored, lonely, or evil.
  • If you use the board for financial gain or to pry into personal matters, the board will be more attractive to evil spirits
  • Never use the board when you are angry, that will attract angry spirits, maybe even poltergeists
  • Don’t use the board when you have poor mental or physical health- you’re more vulnerable to demonic possession
  • Don’t use the board when you are under the influence of substances- you’re more vulnerable to demonic possession
  • ZoZo (or ZoSo) printed on the board is the name of the demon that likes to trick users. ZoZo may haunt people during and after a Ouija session.
  • If the planchette moves to the four corners of the board an evil spirit has been contacted.
  • If the planchette moves across the number printed on the board declining from nine on down to one, the spirit is counting down as the exit the board.
  • Ouija Boards that are not properly disposed of will return to haunt the owner.
  • If you Burn the Ouija Board it will scream
  • To properly dispose of the Ouija Board break it into seven pieces, pour holy water on it, and bury it.

I was amused to find a website that made this claim:

 Do not use the board if you are under 18, unless supervised by an adult. Remember, the Ouija is not a toy and connecting with spirit is not a game.

‘Not a game’ but owned by Hasbro? Sheesh.

Want to know why Ouija boards appear to work? Read this

Want to see Penn & Teller debunk Ouija boards? Watch this


* Exactly what the relationship is can be left up to the social scientists. Leave me out of it, but remind to set up a Google alert so than when that literature is robust I remember to go have a look it.

** As you know from reading the other posts on Ouija, this assertion is not remotely true (which is hardly surprising).